India v Australia, 3rd Test, Ranchi, 4th day March 19, 2017

Greater confidence and more runs for Saha

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Wriddhiman Saha's bumper home season

Ahead of their tour of the West Indies in 2016, India's management decided to promote R Ashwin and bat him above their wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha. At that point, Saha had played 11 Test matches and scored 367 runs at 21.58, with two fifties and no hundreds.

Since then, Saha's Test record has undergone a remarkable transformation. In 13 Tests, he has scored 615 runs at an average of 47.30 and a strike rate of 50.36 - it had been 39.84 previously - with two fifties and three hundreds.

At the end of the fourth day's play in Ranchi, where his third Test hundred helped India take a potentially match-winning 152-run first-innings lead against Australia, Saha said he hadn't made too many changes to his batting, but had grown a lot more confident and decisive.

"I am backing myself a lot more," he said. "My go-to shots, the sweep and the shot over the top stepping out. Initially when I came into the Test team, I played those shots hesitantly but now I am 100% confident. The team, the captain, the coaches, everyone is fully behind me and that is good for me."

India had been under tremendous pressure - 328 for 6 replying to Australia's 451 - when Saha walked in. He added 199 for the seventh wicket with Cheteshwar Pujara, who went on to play the longest innings by any Indian batsman in terms of ball faced (for matches with available ball data).

"Puji shows a lot of patience in domestic cricket, regularly makes 200s and 300s in domestic cricket," Saha said. "The way he showed patience here even as wickets were falling at the other end after short partnerships, he was trying to curtail his shots and have as long a partnership as possible."

Another feature of the partnership was Saha's handling of the short ball, particularly against the hostile pace of Pat Cummins. He chose to sway rather than duck on most occasions, staying leg-side of the ball and giving himself the option of cutting or steering whenever the opportunity presented itself.

"I practice a lot in the nets," Saha said. "[I take the help of] the batting coach [Sanjay Bangar], Raghu [India's throwdown coach], Anil [Kumble] bhai, the fast bowlers - my strength is to let the short ball go, that's what I work on."

Saha's two previous hundreds came against West Indies in St Lucia and Bangladesh in Hyderabad. He rated his Ranchi hundred above both of them."[This one is] the best of the lot," he said. "We needed a partnership, and we built it slowly. Puji made a double and I made a hundred, has to be one of the best."

This was Saha's second major partnership with Pujara in recent months. In the Irani Cup in January, they added an unbroken 316 for the fifth wicket to steer Rest of India to a target of 379 against the Ranji Trophy champions Gujarat. There, Saha had been in a very different mood, his unbeaten 203 coming off only 272 balls.

"In that game, Puji backed me and encouraged me to play my shots and be positive," Saha said. "The same approach was there today as well. Even when I defended, I did it in a positive sense and when I played my shots, that was also in a positive sense. He backed me, hence it was possible to have a good partnership."

Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Mixup on March 20, 2017, 16:03 GMT

    HARROWXI, I suggest you read this excellent article from Kimber: http://www.thecricketmonthly.com/story/1083622/point-fielders-with-gloves

    It is long, but makes an excellent point for the qualities needed for a good glovesman. And yes, he cites specific examples. Its not that athletic dive or lucky stumping that makes for a good wicketkeeper. The position, the movement. the anticipation and the ease with which the wickets are kept is the standard. A missed catch or stumping can cost a team much more than 50 odd runs in every three innings. Samson's keeping is average at best - he can survive a T-20 match or may be a one-day international. Arguably, he also has an attitude problem. Pant has yet to show what he is capable of - 11 First class matches and a call for a test cap? For his own good, he should not be thrown into the hearth of high pressure test cricket. IF he sticks to his game and puts in the hard work, his time surely will come. For now, Saha is there for a reason.

  • mahendra1 on March 20, 2017, 9:24 GMT

    I know, he is the best but when when Dhoni was there, he rarely got chances, now proves that, only he needs more consistent performance in batting, wkt keeping wise he is the best.

  • Ramrup on March 20, 2017, 5:18 GMT

    Feeling proud as a Bengali Cricket lover. I feel for the strength of character for Saha. It is really difficult to fill the shoes of a man called Dhoni. He deserves his position due to pure mettle. Never a darling of the media as such, his deeds speaks for him. Keep it up is at best what I can think of saying. A true hero for Bengali Middle Class people. Hope these kind of instances will motivate future cricketers from Bengal.

  • arupsbt1988 on March 20, 2017, 5:16 GMT

    @ HARROWXI : Sanju Samson and Risabh Pant are not good wicket keepers. They may be a better bat. Saha waited for 7 years while Dhoni kept wickets for India. Let them wait and hone their skills instead. And please note that even the wicket keeping Greats have acknowledged that Saha has far, far better skills as a wicket keeper than Dhoni.

  • a4abhik on March 20, 2017, 3:27 GMT

    @ HARROWXI , Remind us the time when "MS used to keep wickets when india were winning abroad" ! Btw, "injustice to rushabh pant kishan and sanju samson"? Keep watching cricket, especially Test cricket, if you can. Kid, it's not your cup of tea, yet !

  • ACrickLover on March 20, 2017, 2:44 GMT

    Excellent wicket keeping and batting display by saha. When it comes to stumping and holding catches near to his body it appears dhoni has an edge over saha but when it comes to holding catches away from his body - for example diving way beyond his comfort zone and holding catches saha appears having an edge over dhoni. In recent few test matches saha has held on to some catches which dhoni would not even attempt. And saha has been improving too - his stumpings and catches near to his body has improved considerably so much so in this test he has held on to some excellent catches.

    Saha can actually bat very fast too, after all he is an IPL/t20 batsmen as well but in international test matches one cannot experiment too much so it is better saha sticks to his current way of batting solid rather than go for big shots.

    Also saha need to understand trying to score fast does not automatically mean playing risky aerial shots, like he did yesterday, learn scoring fast without risk.

  • HarrowXI on March 19, 2017, 21:38 GMT

    First 11 match sums up his batting skill. With all due respect he made all this runs (13 matches) in india. It is injustice to rushabh pant kishan and sanju samson. As they are better wicket keeper batsman. Please note that in modern day cricket where there is a lack of fast bowling all rounder all over the world its essential that keepers can bat gone are the days when u r number 7 and 8 cant bat. If u want to be number team in the world you need an all rounders till 8. Even in great australian team wouldnt won all those matches if gilchrist coudnt bat at 7. AB used to keep wickets when SA was no 1. MS used to keep wickets when india were winning abroad. I m sorry but saha is not in that category.

  • CrookedI on March 19, 2017, 21:13 GMT

    The best wicket keeper in world cricket is now slowly inching to a proper test standard wicket-keeper bat . I'm super ecstatic for him!

  • hrichintel on March 19, 2017, 20:31 GMT

    Thanks Saha for proving me wrong. You are not a passenger anymore. Please be consistent. Hatsoff wonderful innings. You have setup an Ind win along with the new Wall

  • spinkingKK on March 19, 2017, 20:04 GMT

    Great knock from Saha. Probably the best innings by an Indian wicket keeper. I know Dhoni has played a lot of good knocks. But, this one came in the most important part of the match and the series. India was under tremendous pressure and Saha approached it so calmly and positively. This innings alone can make Saha an automatic choice for the wicket keeper slot until he retires. There's never been a question mark over his skills behind stumps.

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